One of the struggles we all have in dealing with the creation of the cosmos is understanding the vastness of space. When someone tries to give a naturalistic explanation for Earth and its abundance of life, they assume that the variables necessary for the creation of life and the conditions required for life to exist have just happened naturally. Because of the number of stars and planets, they assume that the creation can be a product of blind opportunistic chance.
In 1961 Frank Drake (a founder of SETI) presented what is known as the Drake equation. It involves multiplying seven variables that are necessary for creating a planet with intelligent life by the odds of each of those variables happening by chance alone. Let’s say the odds of having one of Drake’s seven variables are 1 in a million. Those promoting chance explanations of the creation would say that since there are 100 billion stars in the galaxy in which we live, the odds are reasonable for the creation to happen by chance.
There are many problems with this equation and the chosen variables. One statistical problem is that you can’t just have one variable which is isolated from all the other variables. If there are seven variables, then they all have to be accomplished at the same time in the same place. You can’t have variable one at one place at one time, and variable two at a different place and at a different time.
We don’t seem to comprehend the vastness of space, and how isolated stars are from one another. An excellent example of this is the asterism we call the Big Dipper. Seven stars make up the Big Dipper. When seen from Earth, they seem to be close together. The fact is that the stars are nowhere near each other. Mizar, the second star from the end of the handle is 78 light years away from Earth. (A light year is how far light goes in a year – roughly 588 quadrillion miles.) Dubhe, the star at the top edge of the bowl of the Big Dipper is 124 light years away. Merak which with Dubhe makes up the pointer stars of the Big Dipper is 79 light years away from Earth and 45 million light-years from Dubhe.
The size of the cosmos is incredible, but that size does not make chance explanations of the creation accurate. Having the right size planet going around a star that is a red giant would not support life. If you had the right size planet going around a spectral G-2 star (like our Sun), it would not support life if it were located at the core or in the equatorial plane of the galaxy. All variables have to work together at the same time and place, and that is unlikely considering the vastness of space.
When wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8:22-23 she says, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the Earth was.” The vastness of space isolates us from the destructive forces that exist throughout the cosmos. It also reinforces the statement of Romans 1:20 which says “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.”
One of the challenges that all groups face is the problem of sex abuse. My files are full of letters and notes from people from every religion and philosophy including atheism giving personal testimony of sex abuse.
In 2016 we made a series of videos with Jimmy Hinton titled: Sexual Warfare: Safeguarding Churches from Child Predators. It has been interesting to see the response to this series as church leaders have watched it and said, “But we don’t have that problem in our Church.” In reality, all congregations of any size at all in all denominations have a problem that for the most part has gone unrecognized. Our Catholic friends have gotten most of the attention on this issue, but now our Baptist friends are facing the same publicity.
On February 10, 2019, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News published articles exposing 380 Southern Baptist church workers who have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years. The 380 include ministers, youth pastors, Sunday school teachers, and church volunteers. Of that number, 220 have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens more are still in court. More than 700 victims are involved, and leaders at the Southern Baptist Convention are accused of concealing or mishandling victims’ allegations. We want to emphasize that this is a universal problem. Three women have accused atheist/agnostic celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson of sex abuse, so the atheist community also struggles with this issue. Of course, the same can be said of politicians.
One of the interesting characteristics of the people of the first century was the fact that they allowed mob psychology to control what they believed and what they did. We see this happening in the accounts described in the book of Acts.
A good example is an incident at Lystra in Acts 14:8-20. The story begins with Paul healing a man who was born with a physical deformity that made it impossible for him to walk. The crowd saw that an indisputable miracle had taken place. They cried out that Paul and Barnabas were gods who had come to Earth in the form of men. They called Barnabas Zeus and Paul they called Hermes (the god of speech). The local priest brought garlands and oxen for sacrifice.
When Paul and Barnabas realized what was going on, they rushed into the crowd and proclaimed that they were not gods, but just ordinary men. They seized upon the opportunity to tell the people about Jesus. Verse 18 tells us that “even by saying words like these it was all they could do to keep the crowds from sacrificing to them.” Almost immediately opponents of Christianity showed up and “turned the minds of the crowd against Paul.” The same crowd that wanted to make Paul a god now stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city thinking he was dead. This is an amazing change of belief among the crowd, and it shows mob psychology at work.
The classic example of mob psychology is the crowd that demanded the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In spite of the evidence and the best effort of Pilate, the mob demanded the freeing of a known criminal and the crucifixion of the obviously innocent Jesus.
People today are no different when it comes to mob psychology. I have spoken to groups of atheists in public venues in which they summarily rejected anything I said, even though it was obviously true. I have spoken in other venues sponsored by a local religious group where I could say anything, and the crowd would approve it. Having a debate is no way to come to an understanding of truth. That is because what the crowd believes is what they came into the debate believing and no amount of evidence will change their minds.
Unfortunately, mob psychology applies in politics where our political figures, for the most part, regurgitate what their political party has decided to be true. No matter what the evidence is, they refuse to consider other options. We have seen that clearly in recent years in the inability of Congress to accomplish anything of substance. Public evangelists frequently “seed” some people in a crowd to come forward during an invitation, because they are trying to invoke mob psychology to move people.
When you study conversions in the New Testament, you see people sitting down in a one-on-one relationship and considering the evidence. Deciding what to believe is most fruitfully done in rational one-on-one discussions. We live in a wonderful time in which people can consider the evidence in the privacy of their own homes. The “Does God Exist?” ministry attempts to reach people in that way. We strive to be intellectually honest by presenting, in a personal way, what the evidence is and how we should react to it.
We have many websites designed to reach people on a personal level. It is not our desire to stampede anyone into a belief they don’t understand or to move anyone to make an emotional decision. Jesus reasoned with people, and Paul presented evidence. It is up to you to decide what you will believe, but we hope you will base that decision on a careful study of the evidence.
We have had the great pleasure of presenting our lectureships in Australia. One of the common questions from college groups has been, “What good are termites?” The termite mounds in some places we saw were over 10 feet (3 m) tall. People frequently complained that they couldn’t build structures out of wood. There were so many termites that the wood didn’t last long enough to make it cost effective. Science News (February 16, 2019, page 4) carried an interesting article about termites. Kate Parr is a tropical ecologist from the University of Liverpool in England conducting research for the university and the Natural History Museum in London. She has been examining how ants and termites affect the decomposition and consumption of organic material in rainforests.
As they conducted their study, the research area went through a drought. During the drought, termite numbers doubled, and decomposition rates increased dramatically. They found that during the drought in areas where termites were not disturbed, and their numbers increased there was a greater amount of soil moisture, more nutrient mixing, and better seedling survival rates. Areas where the termites had been eliminated had massive die-offs of plants which affected the animal population. In times of normal moisture with no drought conditions, there was no difference in all these variables. What good are termites? It seems apparent that the termites allowed life to prosper during droughts. In places like the Australian outback, the presence of termites is apparently vital for the avoidance of drought die-offs.
One aspect of design in the cosmos is the fact that there always seem to be animals that serve a unique roll in an area when destructive agents threaten the balance of the ecology. The role of insects and small life-forms in the existence of life on Earth is an area that is very understudied. But new discoveries are coming fast and furious as we see the designs of God allowing life to exist even under the most severe environmental conditions.
Most of us know about the 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster because the media promoted it as “the largest ever.” We saw the pictures of the oil slicks, and the horrible images of sea birds and shore animals coated with oil. We saw the frantic attempts of workers trying to save them. We all pay attention until the media decides that the BP oil spill becomes non-newsworthy.
Once the pictures quit coming, and the stories about the consequences and causes of the explosion and the oil seeps quit making the front page, we stopped paying attention to this catastrophic event. The truth is that nothing has really changed. The location of the oil platform that caused the terrible leakage is 12 miles off the Louisiana coast. Since 2004 between 300 and 700 barrels of oil per day have been leaking from the platform. Hurricanes tend to increase the leakage, and oil slicks continue to create havoc all along the coast.
The Washington Post says that no effort is being made to cap the many leaking wells. Every year that they are not capped, over 180,000 barrels of oil leak into the ocean killing marine life and birds. What will be the ultimate effect of all this? The harvesting of seafood in the area around the wells is significantly reduced, and these effects are seen all over the Gulf of Mexico. The tourist industry has been affected as beaches are closed and the pollution curtails fishing. Multiple studies are looking to see what diseases may be caused or accelerated by the oil.
As the BP oil spill becomes non-newsworthy, we don’t hear about it. Reporting on it isn’t attractive to the media because it no longer sells. But as oil spills, plastic materials, and organic waste cause pollution to our bodies of water resulting in human pain and suffering, we need to let our fellow earthlings know what is going on and that God is not to blame.
A major issue of our day is the question of equal rights for all people. We have talked about racial issues in the past and considered the conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman who represented a despised population in that day. This brings us to the issue of women’s rights in the Bible.
John 4:5-42 describes this incredible story of the total freedom from any prejudice in the practice of Jesus Christ. The Jews hated the Samaritans. The hatred had historical roots, and most Jews would not even walk through Samaria. In addition to being in Samaria, Jesus was talking to a woman. In verse 9 the woman expresses amazement that a Jewish man would talk to her, a Samaritan woman. Verse 40 tells us that Jesus stayed with the Samaritans for two more days. That is something a typical Jew would never do.
Those who accuse the biblical record of promoting male chauvinism and racial bias are making an argument that cannot be well supported. There are many reasons why such charges against the Bible are incorrect, and here are a few:
Cherry picking examples without looking at the time, the culture, and the practices of the day is a dishonest approach to women’s rights in the Bible. In the early days of human existence, survival depended on the entire family being involved in providing food and shelter. This meant that women necessarily were confined to certain roles. Defending the family against animals and enemies didn’t fit the roles of most women, and the times and conditions dictated the functions of each member of the family.
Failing to see the God-given roles for women and ascribing abuse that was done in opposition to God’s commands is an invalid argument. In Genesis 24:54-58 the story of Rebekah shows that in God’s system a woman had the right to control whom she married. Numbers 30:3-16 shows God’s rules that protected women. Proverbs 31 describes the voluntary role of a woman who chose to manage her household. The entire book of Ruth shows women having rights even in the ancient world. Deborah in Judges 4 was a judge and political leader. Esther is a revered figure of the Old Testament.
Women in the New Testament could choose any role they wished. First Corinthians 7:32-40 makes it clear that women have the option of choosing a career instead of marriage. Luke 8:1-3 shows us that women supported Christ financially in His ministry. Acts 16 tells about a woman named Lydia who owned a business and played a vital role in the ministry of Paul.
The whole New Testament plan placed great value on all people, including women, above every other consideration. This is stated plainly in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Acts 21:9 we read that Philip had four daughters who prophesied. In Romans 16 Paul lists a group of individuals who played critical roles in the work of the early Church. Most of them are women, and he especially tells the Church in Rome to assist a woman named Phoebe.
Recently we have seen a surge in new abortion laws. New York has passed an abortion law that allows the killing of the baby up to the time of birth. To celebrate this achievement Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the top of the Empire State Building to be illuminated with pink lights.
A bill has been introduced in Virginia duplicating New York’s law but also repealing safety standards for abortion facilities. Virginia governor Ralph Northam proposed that the Virginia law should be expanded to allow the killing of children who have been born alive but are undesirable.
The United States is now one of four nations in the world to allow abortion up to the point of birth. The others are China, North Korea, and Canada. There are now eight states plus Washington D.C. that allow abortions up to the time of delivery. The states are Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and New York.
There have been multiple studies, many of which we have reported on, showing that pre-born babies think, hear, feel pain, and react to things going on outside of the womb. The notion that a baby is “an extension of the mother’s body” is simply not supported by the evidence.
The godless world in which we live now promotes infanticide, the practice of culling babies who are considered for whatever reason to be undesirable. New abortion laws are reflecting a disregard for the value of a human life created in the image of God.
Today’s post is different from our usual news reports or scientific explanations. A member of our congregation recently passed away, and his widow gave us some of his books. One of the books is like none I have never seen before. The book is titled Bible: Then and Now by Jenny Roberts.
In our quarterly printed journal, we have a section where we generally review current books relating to Christian apologetics. While this is not a recent book or a book on apologetics, it helps us understand the geographic world of Jesus’ day and what that same place looks like today.
The book has modern pictures of 14 ancient cities as they are today. Facing each picture on transparencies is an artistic work of what the city would have looked like during biblical times. You can lay the transparency on top of the modern picture to see what is left today and what was there when the biblical events took place. The book describes each city’s history with numerous photographs of the major archaeological discoveries.
I found this to be a fascinating book for learning Bible history. It gives you an understanding of how what you see now reflects what happened in the past and the setting in which it occurred.
Bible: Then and Now was published in 2001. It may be out of print, but used copies are available on Amazon. If you are interested, just go to Amazon.com, select the “books” category and enter this ISBN number 0-7858-1445-0.
One of the most abused and misunderstood words in human terms is the word “love.” Both non-believers and Christians use the word carelessly. Many non-believers use the word love only in a sexual context. “Making love” to many is a synonym for sexual intercourse or at least some kind of sexual experience. The ancient Greeks had multiple words for love, while we have only one.
The Greek language in which the New Testament was written had different words to describe various aspects of love. “Eros” refers to an erotic form of love while “phileo” refers to a friendship. “Philadelphos” deals specifically with loving one’s brethren as in 1 Peter 3:8, Hebrews 13:1 or Romans 12:10. “Thelo” refers to a wish and is seldom used in the scriptures. An example is Mark 12:38 where it refers to loving to go out in public wearing long clothing.
In the Christian belief system, the word “agape” (the noun) or “agapao” (the verb) is called “the characteristic word of Christianity.” It is used 114 times in the New Testament. “Phileo,” the next most common of the words for love, is used 18 times. “Phileo” is never used in a command for people to love God. (See the use of “agapao” in Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27, Romans 8:28, 1 Corinthians 8:3, 1 Peter 1:8, 1 John 4:21.)
The classic example of the use of the different Greek words for love comes in John 21:15-17. Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words says, “The context itself indicates that agapao in the first two questions suggests the love that values and esteems. It is an unselfish love, ready to serve. The use of phileo in Peter’s answers and the Lord’s third question conveys the thought of cherishing the object above all else, of manifesting an affection characterized by constancy, from the motive of the highest veneration.”
Passages like 1 John 4:16 “God is Love,” use “agape.”We struggle with “agape” love because outside of Christianity we do not experience it or see it in the lives of others. When “phileo” is used in scriptures, the object of that love is always something material or emotional in nature. Consider these examples: Matthew 6:5 “love to pray standing in the synagogue…” Matthew 10:37 “he that loves father or mother more than…” Matthew 10:37 “he that loves son or daughter more than…” Matthew 23:6 “loves the uppermost rooms at feasts …” Luke 20:46 “love greetings in the markets, and …” John 11:3 “Lord, behold, he whom thou love…”
When “agapao” is used, the object to be loved is spiritual in nature – either a soul or God. Matthew 5:44 “I say to you, Love your enemies…” Matthew 22:37, 39 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all …” Mark 10:21 “Then Jesus, beholding him loved him…” John 3:16 “God so loved the world, that he gave…” John 13:24 “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another…” Hebrews 1:9 “You have loved righteousness and hated evil..”
The New Testament uses these various words for love. When a person has no concept of love except brotherly (“phileo”) or erotic (“eros”), much of the New Testament becomes too strange to believe. The reason Christianity can change people is that they can learn and be guided to act on “agape” love that allows them to live out the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7). This leads to the “new life” as described in passages like Romans 6. Seeing a person who was dead in sin changed into a loving, serving “new creation” is the strongest apologetic of all. We frequently quote Romans 1:20 in which Paul says, “We can know there is a God through the things He has made.” One of those things is a New Person in Christ.
On Valentine’s Day, the word “love” gets overused. When people around the world are demonstrating hatred for one another, do we even understand what love is? I am reminded of two incidents that happened in 2015 that involved loving and praying.
In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, many people posted that they are praying for the people of France. However, an international affairs columnist for a major Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail got media attention when he tweeted that praying for the French people was both “cruel” and “selfish.” He said that “modern European values were built on the ending of religion.” He blamed the mass murders on “religion” in general. He said that “cheering on the belief system that’s causing murder” by urging people to pray was “selfish and inappropriate.” He also wrote, “I am sure the guys in there attacking are praying. To the same God, too.”
Much could be said about the statements of that columnist, but were the attackers really praying to the same God? If the God who created the Earth and the people on it wanted to kill masses of innocent people why would He need terrorists to do it? Couldn’t He destroy anyone He didn’t like? I think the terrorists must be praying to a different god. The god of destruction must be different from the God who created us. I choose to be loving and praying to the God of peace for everyone to come to know His love.
A second incident occurred that same year. After the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, the New York Daily News ran a cover story with the headline “God Isn’t Fixing This.” The story was critical of Republican presidential candidates who expressed sympathy and prayers for the people affected by the tragedy. The newspaper was taking the view that God can’t fix the problem of hatred and violence that is destroying our civilization.
So what was the solution suggested by the editors of the New York Daily News? They suggested that the solution was more laws. But we have tried laws. We have laws against murder, and we have hate-crime laws. Laws don’t get to the real problem. The problem is in the hearts of men and women, and only God can fix that. (See Romans 8:3.)
Jesus gave us the solution, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Then He told the Parable of the Good Samaritan to show that our neighbor is anyone we can help and serve. In other words, the neighborhood has no limits! Then He showed us the true extent of God’s love through the ultimate sacrifice of Himself.
Those who serve a “god” of hatred and killing as they seek to destroy anyone they don’t like or don’t agree with, are really only serving themselves. The Creator gave us life, a beautiful Earth to live out that life, and the instructions for how to live. Let’s accept God’s solution to our destructive behavior. Start by allowing Christ to change your heart and then loving and praying for others—even for your enemies. Tomorrow we will look at the New Testament words for “love.”